WASHINGTON – The CIA announced Monday that it will now pay the full cost of legal liability insurance for about two-thirds of the agency workforce.
The insurance costs about $300 a year. Until now the CIA has paid just half of the premium annually. Only about 15 percent of eligible employees actually apply for reimbursement.
One shift is already looming: A change in administrations could make it more likely lawsuits will be filed against CIA interrogators for a controversial program approved by the Bush White House — the use of harsh interrogation techniques and the secret movement of prisoners, known as extraordinary rendition.
The insurance comes from private companies to cover legal expenses that arise out of actions undertaken in the course of a CIA officer's official duties. It is meant to cover potential litigation expenses including damages. It covers legal expenses associated only with those activities undertaken after liability insurance is taken. The reimbursement program began in 2000.
Agency Director Michael Hayden on Monday announced that he had expanded the pool of those eligible to be reimbursed for insurance to include all employees involved in covert activities, not just those involved in counterterrorism and counterproliferation.
Any agency employee who supervises one or more employees is eligible to be reimbursed as will attorneys, grievance officers, equal employment opportunity counselors, auditors, IG inspectors and investigators, polygraph examiners, recruiters or hiring advisers and security officers.
"This benefit will help keep agency employees focused on accomplishing the mission, rather than being concerned about potential litigation costs that might arise as a result of doing their jobs," said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield.